Dr. Gabriel Jamie is awarded the SSE Presidents’ Award for Outstanding Dissertation Paper in the journal Evolution

Apr 30, 2021

Dr. Gabriel Jamie has been awarded the Society for the Study of Evolution Presidents’ Award for Outstanding Dissertation Paper in the journal Evolution, for his paper, “Multimodal mimicry of hosts in a radiation of parasitic finches,” Evolution (2020) 74: 2526-2538.

In this paper, Dr. Gabriel Jamie and co-authors investigated host-specific multimodal mimicry by nestlings of brood-parasitic Vidua indigobirds and whydahs to assess their role in adaptation to novel hosts. The premise was that imprinting of parasitic nestlings on their hosts promotes the maintenance of specialized host-parasite associations over generations. This exposes lineages to consistent selection from host species that could allow host-specific nestling adaptations to evolve. Over four rainy seasons in Zambia, Dr. Jamie and his research assistants recorded aspects of nestling morphology and behavior, and developed a new methodology to quantify phenotypes. Remarkable matching was found in the patterns and colors of the parasitic nestlings and the nestlings of their different host species, whose diverse appearances can be seen in the cover photo of the issue (74:11). The team also found matching in the sounds and postural movements of the nestlings. This study shows that imprinting can lead to the evolution of host-specific mimetic adaptations that can generate pre- and post-zygotic isolation and contribute to sympatric speciation.

News

New paper published on Weber’s Law and mimicry

Our paper ‘Why and how to apply Weber’s Law to coevolution and mimicry’ has been published in the journal Evolution. This perspectives paper, written by Tanmay Dixit, Eleanor Caves, Claire Spottiswoode, and Nicholas Horrocks, argues that Weber’s Law of proportional processing can lead to otherwise counterintuitive predictions about the evolutionary trajectories of mimicry systems.  Weber’s Law states that when the magnitude of a stimulus is large, it is more difficult to discriminate a change or difference from that stimulus. In other words, relative differences are more salient than absolute differences. We show that Weber’s Law could have implications for mimicry: when stimulus magnitudes are high, it should be more difficult to discriminate a model from a mimic. This leads to testable predictions about evolutionary trajectories of models and mimics. We also present a framework for testing Weber’s Law and its implications for coevolution. 

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New paper on evolution of egg signatures

Our paper “Hosts elevate either within-clutch consistency or between-clutch distinctiveness of egg phenotypes in defence against brood parasites” has just been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. In this study, led by Eleanor Caves, we asked how host eggs evolve adaptations that allow them better to discriminate their own eggs from parasitic eggs. Theoretically, hosts can generate their own individually-distinctive egg ‘signatures’ by laying eggs that appear similar to one another (consistency) but look very different from other individuals’ eggs (distinctiveness). In this new study, we show that host species of two African brood parasites deploy either consistency or distinctiveness, but not both, as defences, and achieve distinctiveness by combining egg colours and patterns in unpredictable combinations.

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Mairenn Attwood awarded Cambridge teaching prize

Congratulations to Mairenn Attwood for being awarded the Janet Moore Prize for teaching in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge, for her outstanding tutorial supervision of final-year undergraduate students, who praised her breadth and depth of knowledge, enthusiasm, and friendliness.  Mairenn follows in the footsteps of Tanmay Dixit who was awarded the Janet Moore Prize in 2020. Well done both for inspiring the next generation of behavioural ecologists!

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